To help improve the competitiveness of the UK boatbuilding industry, a three-year Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) project seeks to investigate how a concurrent engineering approach might be applied in the context of designing and building boats made from fibre reinforced plastic materials.
This is one of the activities outlines in the current UK National Composites Network newsletter, which can be found at the link below.
In the increasingly competitive global boat building marketplace, UK companies face competition from Europe, particularly Italy for large powerboats, the Tiger Economies in the Far East and the US. This requires the UK boat building industry to embrace modern integrated design and production techniques to maintain and improve its competitive position. These techniques include borrowing and adapting the best solutions from other industries, including aerospace and automotive, as well as those developed within the shipbuilding industry.
One aspect of the advances deals with concurrent engineering which involves explicit linkages of production parameters to design variables at early stages of design conception and synthesis leading to minimization of work content in manufacturing the product (boat) coupled with an optimal use of materials. The work undertaken so far has concentrated in four main areas, namely materials database issues, design codes and standards, production process modelling and concurrent engineering principles.
It is envisaged that the materials database will contain essential information about the materials used for boat building by a given company and will also contain the manufacturing process information for these materials. This tool could be linked to a CAD system so that accurate costing of new designs can be produced to enhance usage of new, more cost-effective and functionally better materials. Incorporation of the latest design codes and standards within concurrent engineering will allow more cost efficient and faster production through use of design for production methods.
The project will also seek to make use of production models incorporating materials flow through the boatyard shop floor; this approach could also be used to optimise the shop floor production area layout. All of these different tools for design will be translated into a concurrent engineering environment to enable increased quality and innovation in design, while reducing the cost of new boat production. The project will culminate with the deployment of the new tool in a number of boatyard case studies.
The project started in October 2006 and is being pursued through a doctoral research programme funded by the EPSRC as a CASE studentship, with additional financial and technical support from the British Marine Federation (BMF) and its participating boat builder members. The project will gain direction both from industry, through two supervisors from BMF, and from academe, through two supervisors in the School of Engineering Sciences in the University of Southampton. Close collaboration between various boatyards, designers and materials suppliers and the research team is envisaged as being critical to the success of this project.
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